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Debed Canyon with Tumanyan Town at the bottom

Debed Canyon is in Northern Armenia region of Armenia. There are two cities along the river at the bottom of the canyon, and a good number of villages that are mainly on the plain that is atop the canyon walls. Alaverdi is the biggest city in the region by far. It is known for the large copper mine that operated for many years, and is a pretty industrial city. Tumanyan is the other city of the canyon, in a central part of it. This attractive settlement with a nice square is at the crossroads of many hiking trails and located right across from Kobayr Monastery, though is more of a small town than a city.



This deep river canyon, studded with historic sites, hiking trails and green fields and hills is quickly becoming a popular destination. It is located halfway between Yerevan and Tbilisi.



Inhabited for millennia, this canyon saw a golden age in between the 9-12th centuries. On the border between Armenia and Georgia, it changed hands a few times over the centuries, which the monastery inscriptions show.



With cliffs towering up to 350m above the Debed river, and a flat plain on top of the cliffs, followed by forested mountains, the landscapes of the Debed Canyon are exciting and diverse.

Flora and fauna


The mild climate and the rain provide the perfect environment for a very diverse flora and fauna. Hawks and eagles can often be spotted soaring at the top of the canyon. Jackals, foxes, hedgehogs and turtles can also be found. The forests have a rich array of flora, including wild pears, barberries, linden trees, and many others.



With summers and winters milder than those in Yerevan, and higher rainfall, the canyon remains green much of the year.

Get in


The main points of entry are Vanadzor from the south and Alaverdi (or further Georgia) from the north.

Get around


Taxis and marshutkas are the main forms of transportation, though hitchhiking or regular hiking are also easy. Marshutkas which service the canyon are mainly the Alaverdi-Vanadzor ones, though there are those that go from the local settlements such as Tumanyan, Odzun and Dsegh to Alaverdi and Vanadzor as well. The Vanadzor-Alaverdi road is also the main Yerevan-Tbilisi road, and the main road through the canyon and region, meaning it gets a steady flow of transport and cars.

The GG Taxi app began covering much of Debed Canyon in 2023, however, there are not always enough taxis around to pick up requests on the app. Best not to depend on it without a backup.

When looking at maps and making plans to get around in Debed Canyon, take note that while Alaveri and Tumanyan are at the bottom of the canyon, along the highway, most of Debed Canyon's villages like Odzun, Haghpat and Dsegh are on the plain above the canyon, requiring separate roads going up the switchbacks of the canyon, meaning they are not nearly as easy to reach as the short distance on the map on the map may lead you to believe.


Haghpat Monastery
Sanahin Monastery
Debed Canyon from Kobayr Monastery belltower
  • 1 Odzun Basilica Church, Odzun Village (8 km southwest of Alaverdi). A huge basilica, which has withstood the tests of time for 1,300 years, the church in Odzun is a beauty. There are also some interesting steles, placed there as a memorial, with carvings telling a story, and a large village surrounds the church. Odzun Church (Q1736204) on Wikidata Odzun Church on Wikipedia
  • 2 Horomayri Monastery, near Odzun (this is an incredibly well-camouflaged monastery on the slope of the cliffs, just 1 km south of Odzun. To get there, climbing up from the highway along the Debed River is probably quickest, but hiking south across the cliffs from the last switchback to Odzun is easy as well. The tough and quick way is descending the cliffs from 1 km south of Odzun). The monastery is built in part at the top of the cliff, in part halfway down. At the top, there is a three-chambered chapel. Below, the walls of the canyon form one of the four walls of the structures. There are caves within the monastic complex, khachkars and carvings. St Mark's Church was built by the Princes Zakare and Ivane Zakarian in 1187. The other buildings were built by Abbot Samuel in 1206. Horomayri Monastery (Q3140702) on Wikidata Horomayr Monastery on Wikipedia
  • 3 Kobayr Monastery, Kober Village (12 km south of Alaverdi). A 40-minute walk from the center of Tumanyan to this monastery on the cliffs, with its stunning frescoes and carvings. The partially collapsed church once had magnificently exposed frescoes - which are now being covered again as the complex is restored. The setting is really nice, as are the views. Well worth the 15-min walk up the slippery wet lush, green slopes of the canyon above the tiny hamlet of Kober. Kobayr monastery (Q645513) on Wikidata Kobayr monastery on Wikipedia
  • 4 Ardvi Monastery (St Hovhannes Monastery), Ardvi Village (5-6 km from Odzun village, 9 km from Alaverdi). Monastery built in 8-17th centuries consists of two small churches and a belfry surrounded by low-height walls. There is also a tetrahedral monument, khachkars (cross stones) and ruins of dwellings. Ardvi monastery (Q16370691) on Wikidata
  • 5 Akhtala Monastery (20 km east of Alaverdi). With the possible exception of Kobayr Monastery, Akhtala has the most exquisite frescoes in Armenia. This fortified monastery, with massive gates and beautiful details, carvings, and ruins, is above a mining town of the same name. Built by the intertwined Armenian-Georgian royalties of the times, this monastery captures the best of both. There are sunken rooms, arches that outlasted their buildings, and nice views. Akhtala monastery (Q2382948) on Wikidata Akhtala_Monastery on Wikipedia
  • 6 Kayan Berd (between Haghpat and Sanahin, follow the road to Akner N of Sanahin and then take small trail to the fortress). Ruins of a small black fortress built in 1233. Kayan Berd (Q13053215) on Wikidata Kayan Berd on Wikipedia
  • 7 Haghpat Monastery, Haghpat Village (6 km north of Alaverdi). Part of the same UNESCO site as Sanahin, you'll have a hard time choosing a favourite. The labyrinth of passages, chambers, khachkars and views will leave you wondering how this masterpiece was built. A combined UNESCO world heritage site, these two monasteries sit on top of opposite sides of the Debed Canyon and have vied for first place with one another ever since the beginning. Both are gems, with extensive grounds, buildings and each with a bell tower. Haghpat has a colored khachkar famous for depicting Jesus - highly uncommon among khachkars, and has half-buried buildings. Haghpat Monastery (Q2423898) on Wikidata Haghpat Monastery on Wikipedia
  • 8 Sanahin Monastery, Sanahin Village (above Alaverdi in Sanahin Village, take marshrutni #3 from Alaverdi). UNESCO World Heritage site, and for good reason. This wonderland of incredibly well preserved Armenian architecture has stood for almost a thousand years, with little change. You can sense how the place must have buzzed with activity. Sayat Nova, the famous bard, used to sing here. The name literally means "older than that one", referring to Haghpat. This is due to the competition between those two monasteries. However, both originate from pretty much from the same time. Sanahin has a round library building that the groundskeeper can show you, with exquisite carvings. You can take a cable car from the main highway up to Sanahin village, and walk to the monastery (20 min) if you prefer. You will pass the Migoyan Museum on the way up. Sanahin Monastery (Q1975614) on Wikidata Sanahin Monastery on Wikipedia
  • 9 Mikoyan Brothers Museum (in Sanahin village, a short walk from their original home and 200 m from the great Sanahin Monastery), . M-Sa 11:00 to 16:00. Artyom Mikoyan the famous aeronautical engineer, designer of the MIG fighter series (MiG parked out front), while his brother become Premier of the USSR. The price includes a guided tour in English (translated folders in German, French and Spanish are also available at the museum). For adults 500 dram, for ages 6-18 250 dram, for ages 0-5 free of charge. which includes a guided tour in English by one of our team (Armenian and Russian language are also available).
  • 10 Tumanyan Matchbox Label Museum (located in Tumanyan's town square, which is in the north part of the town.). Tu-Su 14:00 to 18:00. Quirky little museum with thousands and thousands of matchbox labels from all over the world. The labels come from different decades, with designs and themes that give an interesting perspective into their time and places. free entry, and free guided explanation in English, Armenian or Russian if desired.
  • 11 Hovhannes Tumanyan House-Museum, +374 77 906989, . Tumanyan, one of the most prominent Armenian writers, not only gifted the world with his famous poems and fairy tales, but also helped the Armenian nation during the genocide. You can see his personal items, manuscripts, as well as a peculiar rice-sized miniature sculpture of him. His heart is buried in the garden.
  • 12 Bardzrakash Monastery (Only accessible by hike. 20 minutes from top of canyon, 45 minutes from bottom). Beautiful semi-ruined monastery with intricate carvings on the side of the canyon, overgrown with vegetation. Bardzrakash Monastery (Q2884376) on Wikidata Bardzrakash Monastery on Wikipedia



The deep Debed River Canyon, with basalt cliffs, flat plains on top, and rolling hills and mountains surrounding it is a hiking and mounting biking paradise. A good number of trails have been marked or are being marked, with countless unmarked trails in every direction. Many of them are available on the Hike Armenia app. There is organized river rafting as well, and visitors are free to camp almost anywhere they like.

  • 1 Tsover Lake (Tsover Lich). Have a picnic at Tsover Lake. A picturesque spot with fields, forest, and of course the lake. free.



Local homemade preserves, honey and homemade alcohols (oghi). Cornelian cherry oghi (a very strong liquor made purely of cornelian cherries and sugar) is a local favorite. Wild pear, quince, mulberry and other oghis are also homemade in the area.


  • 1 Lorva Dzor (Immediately north of the first of 3 tunnels when heading north from Vanadzor), +374 93 306064. Perfectly cooked khorovats and kebabs at sit down, indoor/outdoor restaurant, or takeaway kebab sandwiches. Nice soups and salads as well.
  • 2 Zarni Parni (On the road leading to Haghpat from the highway.), +37498111981. Very popular spot for tourists and locals alike. Below the village of Haghpat with an old cave by the restaurant (entrance fee) and standard Armenian fare with great views.


  • 1 Flying Samovar by Noosh, 8 2nd Street, Tumanyan, Lori (In Tumanyan's town square.), +374-93-268450. Retro-Soviet cafe with proper espresso machine, wide coffee and tea selection, iced drinks, and light food options. Amazing views.




  • 1 Tumanyan Bathhouse Hostel, 4 Kentronakan Street (At the end of the sports field), +374-94-572334. Attractive old Soviet bathhouse building converted into a hostel with dorm rooms, privates, common area, kitchen and shared bathrooms. The old character of the building has been preserved, with the old bath check-in window now serving as the reception, and many of the old rooms still having the old tile walls. Games available to play either indoors or on the sports field below the hostel. A stream flows by the common hangout area (with fireflies in the early-mid summer). 3000 per person (varies depending on room).
  • 2 Artemi Guesthouse, 2nd Street, house 5, +374 94 433725. 3 bedroom guesthouse in central Tumanyan with guest use of kitchen. Includes breakfast, and owner can make other meals upon request. Owner lives off premises nearby.
  • 3 Iris B&B, 65, E001, Alaverdi, Armenia, +374 91 088812. Rustic bed and breakfast at the very southern fringes of Alaverdi.







Very little of Armenia is fenced, and wild camping is widely accepted. There are a couple of campgrounds, or places that accept campers, but it's not yet widely established.



Stay safe


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